Power and honesty

I remember listening to Robert Whittaker talk about an honest mental health system.  

An honest system, I think, would be based on finding out what kinds of things make life better and not worse,  developing an adequate array of such services,  providing access to those services for those in need,  supporting their use of those services  or not as they saw fit and continuing to develop and refine services that make a difference.  The  goal of an honest system  would be to ultimately put itself out of business for people that find they no longer need the services provided but to be there for those that need help.

The opposite is a system based on power.   A system based on power is defined by a commitment to building and increasing territory and status for a particular theory,  approach,  role or program as a basic value underlying your involvement in the mental health system.   It is about finding your niche, increasing it’s size and importance, building its  credibility and legitimacy.   An honest system is about finding truth.   A power system is about making yourself look good and defending yourself against anything that threatens your territory.

We have many honest people in this system but the system itself is largely about power.

The Murphy Bill is largely about power.   It is about redefining everything as simply about illness and medicine.   It is about revitalizing the psychiatric vision and making it the most true thing and making it harder for any other view or approach to  challenge that. It is a redefinition of what is true,  who is in control  and what the limits of power are for those in control.

In some ways the opposition to the Murphy Bill can  be seen in similar terms.   The opposition is badly split as for many people it has become about the power and prestige of their particular view or organization.   Their is a lot of competition and rivalry between people who you would think would be united by their opposition to Murphy rather than the fear, suspicion  and conflict between each other that seems to be so strong.  People who can’t stand together will in the end find what they stand for matters little.

It would seem to me to be so much better if we could be a better model for the system we hope to create.


One thought on “Power and honesty”

  1. I like this post. I think what it says is very accurate. Having just undergone some of the worst trashing I have ever seen in our movement (if it can still be called that), it is clear to me that soon we will be finished if things like this don’t change. I have been in this movement for 44 years, and it has never been particularly supportive. But now, its atmosphere reminds me of the back wards in Rockland State Hospital where I spent some of my teenage years.

    We have to find a way to start over. There are tens of millions of people in the U.S. who have spent time on psych wards. They don’t come near our movement, probably for good reason. If they joined us, our movement could be a powerful force. But right now, our movement is literally near the point of death, and if nothing changes, and the drug companies and the psychiatrists get their way, we may see something resembling the Holocaust.

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